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Low-wage rate

The low-wage rate shows the proportion of employees who earn less than two thirds of the median earnings of all employees.

The decisive criterion for earnings to be classified as low wages is their difference from the general wage level. This refers to gross hourly earnings and includes all jobs in paid employment in Sections A to S of WZ 2008 (German Classification of Economic Activities) for which wages were paid in April 2014. Apprentices are not included.

Low wages start at 10.00 euros

In 2014, the low-wage threshold was gross earnings of 10.00 euros per hour. Lower hourly earnings were classified as low wages.

Low wage for one in five employees

In 2014, 21.4% of the employees got low wages. Hence, one in five employees earned less than 10.00 euros per hour in gross terms. As 34.5% of the people in paid employment in the new Länder received low wages, low wages were much more widespread there than in the former territory of the Federal Republic, where the percentage was just 19.3%.

Share of persons in employment with low wagesEnlarge picture

Female, young, working as hairdressers or cleaning ladies

Low wages were distributed very unevenly across groups in society and economic branches. In 2014, 27.2% of the women got low wages, compared with 15.8% of the men. The main reasons are that women frequently work in low-paid occupations and branches and much more often have part-time jobs or are in marginal employment.

Age plays a role, too. An above-average number of young employees received low wages. 45.9% of all people in paid employment who were aged 15 to 24 years got low pay.

In 2014, the proportion of low-wage earners was particularly high among taxi drivers (83.7%), in retail sale via stalls and markets (83.7%) and in video rental shops (80.5%). Other branches with especially large proportions of low-wage earners were beverage serving activities (79.9%), hairdressers (78.5%) and restaurants, cafés and pubs (77.0%).

Share of persons in employment with low wage by education, 2014
in %
Kind of education%
Source: Structure of earnings survey 2014.
No vocational qualification attained46.4
Recognised vocational qualification21.5
Master craftsman's/technician's/trade and technical school certificate11.9
Bachelor's degree11.3
Diplom/Magister degree/Master's/state examination3.5
Doctor's degree/post-doctoral lecturing qualification4.7

Qualification is protection aganist low wages

Only approximately 3.5% of the employees with a Diplom degree or Master's degree (higher education) received low wages in 2014. The proportion was 21.5% among employees with a completed apprenticeship or a full-time vocational school certificate. At 46.4%, it was significantly higher for employees without vocational qualification.

Information on the Indicator

Description or definition:
Low-wage jobs as a proportion of all jobs in paid employment. Low wages are defined as earnings of less than two thirds of the median earnings across all jobs in paid employment. The median divides the earnings distribution into two halves, which means that one half of the employees earn less and the other half earn more than the median value. Gross hourly earnings are used as the basis for calculation.

In 2014, the low-wage threshold in Germany was gross earnings of exactly 10.00 euros per hour.

Structure of earnings survey 2014

Information for interpretation:
The jobs evaluated comprise not only main jobs but also second and additional jobs in paid employment. Also included are jobs of people who are not employed or self-employed in a main job but do have a paid job, such as pupils or pensioners doing mini-jobs.

© Statistisches Bundesamt (Destatis), 2017

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